Currencies & Exchange
For the time being (2015) there are still two national currencies in Cuba:
- CUC: Official name Cuban Convertible Peso
- CUP: Official name Cuban Peso (a.k.a Moneda Nacional or Peso Nacional)
1.00 CUC = $1.00 USD (fixed) and 1 CUC = 25 CUP
Both currencies are now available to everyone (foreigners and Cubans) without any restrictions, but CUPs are mainly used by the Cubans and CUCs are used by both the foreigners and the Cubans. Some establishments only take CUCs and others only take CUPs. The CUP-only establishments are mostly for the day-to-day life, such as street food, produce markets, small grocery stores, cafeterias, public transportation, movies, etc. If you're travelling independently and/or off the beaten track, it's always handy to have a few Cuban pesos (CUP) on you when you're outside of a hotel or resort.
- ALL CASH PURCHASES in Cuba have to be made in CUC (or CUP); no other foreign currency is accepted
- TIPPING is made in CUC.
Important to know: You can only get Cuban currencies (CUP or CUC) in Cuba.
The Cuban currency is not traded internationally; so it cannot be bought in advance.
Warning! Sometimes when buying an item in CUC, the change may be given to you in CUP. This scam is not very common but it would still be wise to become familiar with the appearance of both currencies and to be vigilant.
You can exchange foreign currencies at the following locations in varadero:
This is where you’ll usually get the best exchange rate. Click here for a list of banks in the Varadero area.
2. Cadeca (acronym for Casa de Cambio)
This is the official government's currency exchange house. Exchange rate can be just a little bit higher than the bank, but they usually are more conveniently located. Cadecas can be found everywhere in Varadero: airport, many hotels and resorts, on the streets, shopping centers, etc. According to our experience, the Cadecas located in airports usually charge a higher service fee.
3. Hotels and Resorts Front Desk
Exchanging currency at the Front Desk is the most easy and convenient option but usually not the best rate you will find. Service fees vary from a hotel to another, on average 3% to 6%. Note that in some hotels the money exchange booth located in the lobby may be an official Cadeca, and in other hotels exchange in made at the Front Desk.
Many foreign currencies may be exchanged for CUC (such as: EUR, CAD, USD, GBP, CHF, MXP, DKK, NOK, SEK, and JPY) at the daily exchange rate, but not all banks, cadecas or hotels can handle all of these currencies. The "Banco Nacional de Cuba" publishes the official daily exchange rates in its website (www.bc.gov.cu/).
US Dollars: USD exchange against CUC is different; a 10% surcharge (penalty) is added, so avoid bringing US dollars if you're not American. This is the only foreign currency that is penalized with this additional fee.
Useful tips about money exchange:
- The passport is required to exchange money in a bank or at a Cadeca but at the Front Desk of your hotel.
- Banknotes with rips, markings or tears are not accepted so make sure to bring notes in good condition.
- Please note that no foreign coinage can be exchange, notes only.
- Before leaving the exchange desk, always check the cashier calculation to make sure that the right exchange rate was applied, and count your money to make sure to receive the right amount.
- It's forbidden to take Cubans pesos (CUC ou CUP) out of Cuba.
You can exchange back leftover CUCs at the end of your trip but the exchange rate (sale) is very bad. The CUCs have no value outside Cuba so it's better to exchange smaller amounts at the time and budget wisely at the end of your stay. Note that the airport's Duty-Free shops usually accept foreign currencies.
They are not very useful in Cuba because it's often difficult to find a place to cash them and you have to pay a commission. Plus, you cannot have them replaced in Cuba if you lose them or they get stolen, you'll have to wait until you come back home.
Click here for more info about Credit cards and Debit cards